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Sarasota Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 5 months ago

School board approves policies ahead of new year

The policy changes focus on student safety and community partnerships.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

The School Board of Sarasota County approved its consent agenda with a 5-0 vote Tuesday, bringing a variety of changes to the district for the new school year. 

The new policies touch on cell phone usage, student safety and guest speaker policies. 

School security 

The board passed a policy that would require schools to have as many active shooter drills as they do fire drills. This means that students will have both an active shooter drill and a fire drill each month. 

Additionally, the school will now have a threat assessment team composed of counselors, administrators, teachers and police officers. The team will be tasked with identifying students who are a threat to themselves or others. 

The change comes after a state legislature requirement following the 2018 shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

If the teams determine a student is a threat, they can then pull a student’s criminal history and notify local authorities.  

Guest speaker policies

Teachers will now be required to get permission from administrators to bring a guest speaker into a classroom. 

The police change follows a 2018 presentation during which a guest speaker from Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center of Sarasota showed students a video about the importance of sexual consent. The video, which the district had not previously approved, showed same-sex and heterosexual couples. 

The new policy is meant to ensure that the “a speaker’s material aligns to Sarasota County Schools’ curriculum.”  

All teachers wanting a guest speaker will fill out an approval form, which goes through administrators, and teachers must remain in the classroom for the entirety of the presentation. If a presentation involves sensitive matter, an executive director must sign off. 

Cell phone usage

A new student cell phone policy will regulate when students can use their cell phones based on different educational stages.

Elementary school students will have devices “silenced and put away” at all times. Middle school students will have devices silenced and put away except when under the supervision of staff for class instruction. High school students will have devices silenced and put away except during passing periods, lunch and when under the supervision of staff for class instruction. 

Other highlights

The board approved contracts with organizations such as the Sarasota YMCA, Children First, Inc. and Schoolhouse link to bring outside school services to children. 

It also approved a $15,000 contract with Instride Therapy, Inc. to bring hippotherapy services to disabled students and a grant proposal to bring a basket weaving class for the visually impaired to Suncoast Technical College. 

Additionally, the board approved an agreement to share data with Achieve3000 so it can develop student reports that are linked to Florida State Assessments. Board member Bridget Ziegler expressed that no sensitive student information, such as a social security number, is shared with the company. Instead, students are identified with an internal number. 

During his report, Superintendent Todd Bowden said 46 of the 72 instructors and 17 substitutes at Oak Park School have received updated Crisis Prevention Intervention training. While not all instructors require that training, Bowden said Oak Park’s principal Jamie Lowicz has set a goal to have all instructors trained on CPI this year. 

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